You may not be quite sure of how it happened, but suddenly your child is unable (or unwilling) to practice piano, spelling words or even math questions because they might get them wrong. How you respond to these tantrums (or misbehaviours) teaches kids how to manage failure in the future.
Option 1 – The Excuse
‘Well, it’s obvious we’ve raised a perfectionist and they are so darn sensitive…it’s probably better if we don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to. They’ll get over it when they realize how important spelling is.’
Result: The child learns that if they protest about anything that is even a bit tricky (or just takes up valuable play time) they can get away with it. They will be protesting all over the place in no time.
Option 2 – Learning Opportunity
When kids feel overwhelmed by new tasks, we can certainly support their emotions, ‘Wow, you seem to have pretty big feelings about these spelling words. Let’s find a way to get the feelings out and then we need a plan.’
Power struggles mean that kids are fighting for control. We need to find a way to give them some control within the situation. When the heat of the moment has passed, set aside some time make a plan WITH your child about how things are going to be different moving forward.
‘We know that you need to write your spelling (or practice your scales) three times this week. Will you be doing it at 3:10 or 3:20? How many words will you do in a row? When it seems scary or tough, how will you find the courage to keep trying?’
Result: When the child feels they have some power in the situation, they doesn’t have to fight you. They knows that together, you can come up with a plan and that you are on their side.
For a downloadable mp3 tutorial on teaching your child courage click here.
Parenting young children can be exhausting—feeling like we are with them every second of their wakeful hours. While we do need to keep an eye on them (especially those 3 and under,) we don’t have to be entertaining them every moment of the day.
This doesn’t mean that we hand over the technology. (Reminder: the CSEP advises no technology for kids 2 and under.) What it does mean is that we take the time to teach independent play. Our kids need to learn to entertain themselves. Here are the 4 steps to teaching this skill.
1. Set up your child to do an activity that they really enjoy. Reading a book, playing with blocks, trains, cars, etc. Let them know that you need to leave the room for a moment and that you know they will be just fine reading their book. Some kids will be fine with this. Others will feel concerned that you won’t be there. If necessary, tell your child that you will be back in 20 counts or at the end of Row Row Row Your Boat. Then, count aloud or sing the song while you are in the other room (bathroom or wherever you go). Be back when you say you will be back.
2. Notice that your child managed well while you were gone. Say, ‘I knew you would do just fine on your own. You do love to read that book.’ Don’t over-praise, just notice.
3. Do this every so often and gradually lengthen the time that you are out of reach With younger kids, ‘out of reach’ could simply mean you are chopping veggies at the counter or folding laundry across the room. You could even be sitting nearby reading your own book or magazine.
4. Extension. Ask your child to choose what they will do while you are reading, chopping, etc. and set them up for success. Eventually, they will be comfortable doing this on their own.
Teaching independent play helps children to learn that they are independent and capable, and that they don’t need technology for their entertainment.
Image of independent play from Shutterstock.